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Fallow

For a self-described writer, I’ve written very little outside of blog posts this year. I have … reasons (I’ll just say life has demanded my attention in ways I couldn’t ignore).

I started a perfectly-good novel last year, tentatively named Field of Shards. I intended to work on it back in January/February, which is when, well, the ugliness happened.

My fallow periods always coincide with some personal crisis, whether I know it at the time or not. November has been a lucky month, at least, which is why NaNoWriMo works part of the time. I think the best way to describe these fallow times is “emotionally distracted.”

Another reason: I’ve been out of touch with contemporary SF for a couple years. My life, as it goes, got busy a couple years ago, and I simply couldn’t keep up with all the great fiction coming out. I haven’t even read the follow-up to Barsk, which was probably my favorite book the year it came out.

Creativity is fickle, and discipline has been especially difficult for me this year. But the fallow time is coming to an end. Hopefully the words will be back soon.

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Won’t Get Fooled Again

This quote by Brene Brown used to be one of my favorites, from her book Braving the Wilderness: “strong back, soft front, wild heart.” In essence, it means having strong moral conviction and identity, learning to be vulnerable, and letting your heart lead you. I’d recite it in the context of leadership, either in an interpersonal sense or with regards to church or work.

I no longer believe this to be true.

Strong back? Sure. Know who you are and what you believe.

Wild heart? Yes. Let it lead you where it may.

Soft front? No.

Guard your heart. Don’t share your secrets with those who mean you wrong. “Pearls before swine” is such a Christian phrase, but it makes sense here. Don’t let your soft, sensitive innards get trampled by pigs.

I’ve seen friends be emotionally blackmailed by those in pursuit of some agenda. It’s happened in places where trust should have been paramount.

It happened to me recently. After I gave more than a few days’ thought to those responses to my [REDACTED] posts from last month, I realized they weren’t intended to call me into account. They were intended to hurt, to twist the knife further while I was trying to own up to my behavior. They wanted me to feel like shit.

Hey buddy, I have depression. That’s already the case.

I’ve been trying to establish better boundaries, and this is just one result. This isn’t the only place where I’ve cut back on discussing my personal life — I’m trying to cut back on social media at large. (And yes, comments are gone for good. Want to say something? Email me.)

I can’t have a soft front anymore. Sorry, Brene Brown, but vulnerability only works with those acting in good faith.

Guard your wild heart.

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Hey, what happened to a bunch of your blog posts?

I’ve decided my personal life should be, well, more private.

Nothing’s changed. I continue to address my past behavior and come to terms with my identity.

It’s also part of a wider effort on my part to practice better social media hygiene, so you’ll see some other changes on this and my other profiles.

This blog will remain topical, but being confessional doesn’t help myself or anyone else.

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Why Python?

Oh, right, I’m a programmer.

I talk about mental health, writing, movies, mental health, travel, and mental health so often on here, it’s easy to forget that I spend 8 hours a day programming.

I write code for a living. More specifically, I’m a web developer specializing in front-end code but with significant back-end experience. I’ve spent most of my professional career working in Javascript, ColdFusion, and PHP, and I cut my teeth on QBasic way, way back when.

And lately I’ve spent a great deal of time playing around with Python.

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So I Guess I’ll Talk About Godzilla

What Godzilla: King of the Monsters understands — as does the first Pacific Rim movie — is that giant monster movies are supposed to be cathartic.

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“What is the cost of lies?” A few quick thoughts on Chernobyl

Holy moly, this show.

As Game of Thrones wound its way to a wet fart of a series finale, I started thinking about what else I could use my HBO Now subscription for. (I frequently confuse the on-demand service with HBO Go, which is just for cable subscribers — which is probably intentional.) Besides an archive of good miniseries from years past, there was a new show that had really piqued my interest: a show about the Chernobyl disaster.

Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, a chemist who was drafted for the initial disaster recovery and investigation following the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The show depicts Legasov’s descent into despair, exhausted by the magnitude of the task of mitigating the meltdown, and his increasing frustration with the Soviet bureaucracy that hampered the cleanup efforts and cost thousands of lives.

“What is the cost of lies?” He says in the first episode, a scene set after the events of the series. The cost, Legasov explains, is that lies and truths become indistinguishable, everything turning into just stories.

The show has an amazing ensemble cast: Stellan Skarsgaard, Emily Watson, and a roster of character actors playing everyday citizens living through a months- and years-long nightmare in the aftermath of the meltdown.

The show, as noted by many reviewers, has contemporary overtones: climate change denialism, the fabrication of facts by the current administration, a creeping despair among so many in my generation. I’ve also noted some parallels in my personal life with events in the show, but then again I’m drawn to thoughtful, quiet characters committed to the truth (see also: I, Claudius).

I highly recommend it, but be warned: there are depictions of gruesome deaths of both people and household pets.

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Outdoors

My alarm woke me at 3:30 AM on a Saturday morning, which hadn’t been a regular occurrence for over ten years — not since I worked logistics at a big retail chain. I chugged some coffee/energy drink mix from a can, pulled on my hiking clothes, fed the cat, grabbed my gear, and drove to meet my friends.

My friend Trude had invited me to join her and Diane on a bird safari around Lake Apopka. Trude won it at a church auction; I had to back out when the bids rose above $200. Diane would drive and point out interesting specimens; Trude would take pictures; I, with a tremor that makes it difficult to handle a camera, would observe through binoculars.

Nature is way more interesting with knowledgeable friends and a deliberate pace.

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The First Run: “Avengers: Endgame”

I recently appeared on the podcast The First Run, co-hosted by my friend Chris Scalzo, to discuss Avengers: Endgame. Check it out here!

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“We … are … Americans” – Some Quick Thoughts on “Us”

Well, that movie’s gonna stick around in my headspace a while.

I don’t think it’s quite as good as Get Out, Jordan Peele’s last film, but few films are. However, I found Us to be more memorable — the imagery is vivid and disturbing, especially during the third act. The performances, including two amazing ones from Lupita Nyong’o, are excellent for reasons I don’t wish to spoil.

Speaking of Jordan Peele, I really should watch the new Twilight Zone series.

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“We’ve just been informed by the studio that we’re doing a Part 3”

Lindsay Ellis’s The Hobbit “duology” documentary — funny, frustrating, melancholic, nostalgic, overall a great watch — is a finalist for Hugo Award for Best Related Work. I’ve been a big fan of her work since she began a decade ago.

The rest of the nominees look strong, but I’ve been out of sync with SF this year. Hoping to remedy that soon.

ETA – watch the first part here.